I was one of those types who insisted throughout the primary process that there was just “no way” Donald Trump became the nominee. As much as I understood the grassroots upswell behind him, I figured that his support would fizzle as his incompetence and unfitness became clearer and/or more relevant. Besides, we had other intelligent, interesting, and principled candidates to choose from (#gilmentum); and I was sure that, once the field shrunk down from an ungodly seventeen candidates to a more digestible three or four, one of the other comparatively far-more qualified candidates would surge to become the nominee.
I, along with many other right-leaning or Republican individuals, was dead wrong. It’s not that Trump wasn’t exposed as a buffoon. He was – time and time and time and time again.
But primary voters didn’t care. The rage that was sweeping through the party – at the Obama administration, at coastal elites looking down their noses at middle America, at the Republican establishment consistently walking back on their campaign promises to change the status quo, etc. – didn’t heed anything other than the fact that it had finally found a messenger who not only empathized but who willingly accepted “the mantle of anger.” Primary goers were willing to overlook Trump’s demeaning of military heroes, his xenophobic rhetoric (granted, some of his supporters are attracted to this rhetoric, but – at least anecdotally – I know a number of individuals supporting Trump who are upset with his language in this regard), his misogyny, etc. They were just pissed, and they found someone who actually seemed like he was going to take a sledgehammer to the beltway-insiders club to which they felt they had lost everyone else they ever sent to Washington.
However, even righteous anger has its limits. And the fact is that Trump is a buffoon. A disaster. A dangerous demagogue who is preying on the legitimate frustrations and fears of individuals while peddling nothing but himself as snake oil. Sad!
Sometimes, leadership requires dealing with hard issues and angry supporters. It requires patiently explaining to people how what they apparently want to see happen is not going to solve the problems that frustrate and anger them. It requires demonstrating that some modicum of basic human decency and understanding of domestic and foreign policy is needed to fill the most powerful office in the world. That time has come (and really has been long overdue).
With recent chatter that GOP leaders are staging – no joke – an “intervention” for Trump, with some even planning for the contingency that Trump could drop out of the race, it seems an opportune moment to finally cut the cord, pull the trigger, or whatever metaphor you prefer. If, somehow, the nominee slot was vacated, Republican Party Rule 9 would kick in, which provides for filling vacancies in nominations:
(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.
(b) In voting under this rule, the Republican National Committee members representing any state shall be entitled to cast the same number of votes as said state was entitled to cast at the national convention.
(c) In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.
(d) No candidate shall be chosen to fill any such vacancy except upon receiving a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the election.
Here’s exactly how this could go:
- After staging the aforementioned intervention, a tired and disengaged Trump should emerge to a press conference shortly thereafter to announce that he is no longer interested in pursuing the office of the Presidency and that, as such, he is withdrawing himself from the race, effective immediately. Given Trump’s ego and arrogance, leadership should agree to allow him to spin this however he wants – let him say he’s “too successful” and just doesn’t feel like “wasting his time” with petty politics; let him take pot shots at individuals by whom he feels aggrieved; let him demean our military one last time; or let him do whatever makes him feel better and less insecure about himself. There’s plenty of fodder out there already to spin this so he can walk away in such a manner so as to look like he took his ball and went home, rather than having to admit he’s an unfit clown who isn’t qualified to vacuum the oval office, let alone inhabit it.
- After Trump announces this, party leadership announces that they are surprised by his withdrawal, that they appreciate the attention he has brought to issues that can no longer be ignored, and that they are convening a meeting of RNC leaders from each state to discuss what to do next.
- Leaders from each state hurriedly convene a straw poll – hell, do it online through a secured server that can keep track of multiple log-ins from the same ISP or the use of proxy ISPs – from party members within their state to see who they would like to become the nominee, compiling a list of former primary candidates as well as party leaders who were not candidates (e.g., Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney), leaving a write-in slot as well, just in case. They should make it clear that, due to the hurried nature of this process and potential voter-fraud issues (finally, a legitimate invocation of that concern!), the results are not binding but that they will help the leaders choose the next candidate, who they make clear will be someone who has the support of many within the party. They should also have a ballot that allows individuals to rank candidates, rather than only allowing one choice for each individual – that way, they can, with a straight face, pick someone who may not be the first choice of a majority of voters but who is nevertheless demonstrably supported by most, or all, voters.
- One of the individuals on the ballot who has some national name recognition signals their willingness to be considered to replace Trump on the ticket.
- Leaders from each state convene with the results of their respective straw polls and then vote on who the next nominee should be, preferably selecting the individual who indicated their willingness to replace Trump.
- Once the nominee is selected, the party can have a formal press conference (re)introducing the selected individual to the American people. The nominee should be magnanimous; should express her or his desire to unify the party; and should come out swinging against Clinton, emphasizing that, despite this upheaval, the only real issue in November is Hillary Clinton’s disqualifying corruption, ethical failings, and lack of fitness for office.
- All the Never Trumpers with any sort of sway can then flood the blogosphere and the op-ed pages with pieces hailing the new nominee and demonstrating how that individual is vastly superior to Clinton in every way (presuming the new nominee is someone for whom this would be true).
- All the Koch money that’s been sitting on the sidelines during Trump’s ascendancy can then rush in to fill the media void and make up for lost time. Perhaps they could even make use of the most recent D.C. Circuit ruling that allows a former Mike Huckabee SuperPAC to use the name of the candidate they support in their own title (keep it registered as is and just shift its focus to the new candidate). That way they can boost the new nominee’s brand recognition with every dollar spent.
- The GOP could then actually stand a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in November, who would stand promoted from being the “second worst thing that could happen to this country” to being the first worst.
This is probably just wishful thinking, unfortunately. But, if nothing else, at least we’d get to see Sad Chris Christie one more time.